Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gratitude IS a Chosen Attitude

When you first embark on a recovery path, it is common to feel "high" on life for a short period of time....

but then...

the doldrums of the reality of life without this "protective layer" set in.

For instance, you may feel more vulnerable, more frightened, more child-like than ever before, because you are "exposing" part of your true self for the first time in a long time.

When the negatives take you for a ride, you basically have two choices: sink or swim...

And since you have tried ....and tried...and tried...and tried..the sinking over and over again...

why not try a new way to swim above the surface?

One clinically proven way to turn the negatives around (as hokey as it sounds) is to make a gratitude list.

You can do the old (A-to-Z) approach that lists things you are grateful for, A-to-Z..or, you can do something called the "ten finger" approach..just find ten things, counting on your ten fingers, you are grateful for every day (or every moment you feel miserable). The act of touching your fingers is also very self-soothing and distracting from negative thoughts.

The trick with gratitude lists, however, is not only to write about what you are grateful for that seems "good" in your life, but to make sure to express gratitude for the things you are struggling with as well.

It will feel as though you are lying at first, and, in many ways, you are...

however, thinking changes feelings and action changes thoughts.

If you think it...and force yourself to think it by this simple practice, you WILL find the good and the gratitude in all you are experiencing.

And the best part?

You get to stay clean and sober for another day.

Just for today, choose life instead of misery. You've already lived the life of the "walking dead," so why not do something different?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Day of...


Don't be afraid to take one.

Everybody needs them.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Get Over It

When you first go to recovery meetings, if that is what you choose to do for your plan of recovery, you might hear a lot of people saying things like,

"As soon as I came to (insert twelve-step program), I felt at home,"


"I never had a family of my own until I came to ..."

For some people that may be true, but for MANY people in early recovery, the rooms of a twelve-step program can be just as daunting as being social in the "outside world."

After all, we generally use to avoid being uncomfortable in any kind of relationship (including with ourselves), and recovery meetings are asking us not only to have a relationship with ourselves, but with others as well.

HORRORS, right?


While you may be one of the many people who feel "like an outsider looking in," when you begin any sort of recovery, try to keep in mind the following:




No matter where you "land" yourself in early recovery (twelve-step programming, inpatient treatment, therapy, white knuckling it alone, etc...) you are going to feel awkward and uncomfortable.

That is the reality of what recovery is like...


you are also going to get through it over time, unlike your active addiction, which, given continued use, you would NEVER have gotten over.

Try to remember in your early days (and in more "blossomed" recovery when you are having one of those paranoid, "off" days), that even though it may feel like you are an alien in a strange land, that others have walked in yours shoes and that no matter what anyone says, they, too, have been "lonely and frustrated."

They too have "gotten over it."

Just for Today, try not to compare your insides with what you THINK you see on other people's outsides.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dance Around the Room

Be Silly today.

Don't take yourself too seriously.

Climb a jungle gym, bake a confetti cake and forget one of the ingredients...

jump on your bed...or better yet, jump on your child's bed if you have one.

Snort when you laugh.

Just be silly.

Just be free.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Self Care

Well, since I have been sick this week, it seems like self care is a timely "tip" topic.

Here is the deal.

When you are using or indulging in your addiction du jour, you aren't able to take care of yourself.

Those people in recovery who are given the "double whammy" of having grown up in an addicted home, may also have not even learned self-care skills to begin with.

This is nothing to be ashamed of; for it makes up the large majority of people in recovery. But it DOES need to be acquired as a skill in order to have sustainable sobriety.

This may sound simple, but, remember, the early stages of recovery are about going back and learning the elementary things we missed out on when we began indulging in our addictions.

So, it is important to start with the following basic step when learning how to "treat" yourself for self-care in the first months and years of recovery.

Make a List every day, either when you go to bed or when you arise, about the things you did to "take care" of yourself the previous day.
Ask yourself the following questions to start?
Did I eat? Sleep? Exercise? Shower? Brush my teeth? Take any necessary medications? Talk to someone who cares about me? Do Laundry? Pay bills or contact bill collectors? Do something toward recovery? Etc.

These are the BASICS, but, for so many of us, they are simply "thrown by the wayside" when addiction permeates our lives.

If you haven't answered yes to all of these questions, then, perhaps, you need to continue making this list until you acheive a higher level of "self-care" inventory.

And, then, when you are done with "the basics," it is time to move on to more "advanced" levels of self-care "treatment," such as:
cleaning your house, your car, buying yourself flowers, saying thank you to people who have been there all along, etc.

And, only THEN, do you get to start worrying about caregiving other people again..

Just for today focus on yourself. You are worth it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Do Something for Free

Does early sobriety feel boring to you sometimes?


In other words, if you are having a hard time figuring out "what to do with myself," now that you are sober, you simply are not EVEN CLOSE to being alone.

Here is a suggestion. Get your thinking skills going again and seek out any and all free activities you can find where you live (either city promoted or YOU promoted).

Concerts, open yoga classes, long walks, snow skiing, sun bathing, movies in the park, bubble baths, drawing, or jumping up and down...

The point is, that you give yourself the power to do two things here:

-find yourself being creative again and less BORING in your own thinking (because that is really the thing that gets boring, not life) and build self-esteem by saving money in the process.

Just for today, don't be a curmudgeon, notice all the free fun around you.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Watch Something Other than Yourself

Have you ever just tried to sit? To stay? To listen?

I can't say that I've succeeded at that task very many times in my life. But I sure have tried.

However, the willingness to even try such a behavior can make a world of difference in the life of anyone in recovery.

Of course, when you do try, dreaded FEELINGS may emerge, but, that is the whole point in cleaning up your life.

If you wanted a feelingless life, the numbness of your addiction would have kept you there just fine.

But you didn't, because you chose to stop.

Just for today remember that when you look at sitting still and feeling as a CHOICE, not a life sentence, you will free yourself to move past the feelings and live the life you were meant to live.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't Make a Move

Even though it is tempting in all of our daily lives, let alone in early recovery, to focus on fixing, managing and controlling other people's growth process, one of the key tips for recovering yourself is to ...

Let the chips fall where they may when it comes to recovery friends, family and acquaintances.

One of the sure ways of stunting our own growth process is to try and work another person's recovery process for them.

First, it keeps us from identifying our own issues (and can potentially become another addictive habit to avoid our own feelings), discounts the other person's right to their own life path, and, ultimately, causes everyone involved frustration.

Just for today: Instead of doing for another person what he/she can do for him/herself, do that very thing for yourself.

If you can get better, so can others..and since you you weren't very much help to yourself in your attempts to get better without help, it is most likely you aren't best to help someone else.
Stick with the program of action you have already started on and go from there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Celebrity Profile

This may sound counterintuitive, but, focusing on celebrity drama can really get you out of your own for a minute or two.

If you are having a hard time focusing today, either go out and buy the latest US Weekly or check out People online and get a taste of somebody else's chaos for today.

Not only will you be focusing on something simple and "not-so-serious" as your brain may want to imply, but you will also get a valuable lesson...

Even if you had all the money in the world, that STILL wouldn't guarantee you happiness OR sobriety.

Just for today read something ridiculous and keep doing the next right thing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Step it Out...

If you are someone who tends to ISOLATE, then you are rightfully aligned with most newly recovering addicts.

The bad news about this is two-fold:

Your drug of choice isolated you anyway, so why continue to do the same thing when you are clean (you got clean to get better)


Isolation is like a cess pull of fungus that just feeds on your disease and makes you feel more lonely, depressed, isolated, fearful and anxious (the OPPOSITE) of why you bothered to start your life over again from a sober perspective.



Since there can be some balance between isolating and throwing yourself in front of a mass of people, which can also be too overwhelming in early recovery, try something in-between. Sit in the sun, change your walking pattern to the office, read at the coffee shop down the street instead of in your bed...that kind of thing.

Just changing your scenery can make a world of difference.

Try this on for size.

Your disease is most likely the only "thing" that has ever REALLY tried to kill you, so why would you EVER lock yourself up alone with it?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Listen Up

Do you ever feel like your brain is on constant state of cruise control; never allowing you to pull over for a bathroom break, so to speak?

Well, if that is the case, you just aren't alone.

Virtually every addict in early (and sometimes with seasoned) recovery has an overactive, and often negatively influenced brain.

The hard part is knowing how to calm it down enough to let ANYTHING worthwhile, and potentially crucial to your recovery process in...

So, if you are someone who struggles with this problem (i.e. not listening at recovery meetings, inability to sit more than 5 minutes at a time, constant need for some kind of external stimulation, even if it means chattering incessantly to avoid the quiet, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Additionally, there is something you can DO to help it.

And that, in fact, is the ACT of listening more than you speak- a TALL order for anyone, let alone a newly sober alcoholic or addict.

The good news about this is that when you think about the fact that you can CHOOSE to listen and that you aren't TRAPPED in a corner having to listen, then you actually regain the power to make listening a positive trait for you, rather than something you are dreading, for fear that someone will say something you don't want to hear.

Making the CHOICE to listen from a place of 'adulthood,' rather than from a place of victimization can actually make the world of difference.

The more you listen, the more you won't want to speak, and it will also REALLY help quite your brain.

Today's Challenge: Find the person you LEASE like to listen to and start there. After you listen -without interrupting-for at least five minutes, write down at least one thing you learned by listening.

You will be surprised with the results...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wash Your Brain Out with Soap

When was the last time you really monitored your thoughts..
I mean REALLY thought about what you think about and tell yourself on a daily basis?

As an old and dear friend of mine used to say, "If I talked to you the way you talked to you, you would hang up the phone on me..."

And she was absolutely right.

Think of your negative thoughts as an invitation to the baseball game and, literally, bat them back every time you think of someone or something that you just can't abide today.

We all need a good "brain-washing" from time-to-time, so why not start the process today?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Netflix, Not Narcotics

If you are early in your journey towards recovery, I would bet that you can't remember the last time you laughed....I mean, truly laughed.

Not laughed at something like falling over a railing or laughing over the remnants of an evening you partially remember...but, just a self-generated, sober-influenced laugh that lingered for awhile.

Many therapists and sponsors working with recovering men and women will say that they know the person with whom they work is getting a little better when he/she starts laughing again.

That's just it. Drinking and drugging robs you of one of the fundamental aspects that defines your humanity.

And, not only do you not deserve such a loss, but you DEFINITELY, deserve the chance to get that back and to live the life you were meant to live again (or, even, for the first time).

So, for today, join the equivalent of a Netflix and start ordering any show/movie/sitcom that has ever generated a belly laugh from you in your lifetime; even if it is something you remember from a brief time you might have felt joy in your childhood.

Treat yourself and the child inside of you to the playfulness you've so been triving to obtain through your addiction. Even though this will fill hoaky and, potentially, not so much fun at first, such activities are useful in re-training your brain to seek engagement and "good-times" in activities that are not related to your drug of choice.

Before long you will begin to look for other opportunities to laugh, to engage and, of course, to live life more fully again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's all in a Greeting Card

For today's tip, let's keep it simple.

In glancing over my desk to a card I bought months ago that is taped on the wall, I find that it contains a sobriety tip:

You were wild once. Don't let them tame you.

Isadora Duncan

And, what, prey tell does this mean to you in recovery? This kind of "wild" implies freedom.
Freedom to be. To do. To thrive. To light up a room when you walk into it.

For today, don't confuse "wild" with "drunk" or "high," because that is NO KIND OF FREEDOM. In fact, it is self-imposed captivity.

Just for today, don't let that disease "tame" the you you were meant to be.

Make a list of all the things you did that were freeing before you started using, or all of the things you dream of doing that your diseased robbed from you. The longer you stay in recovery, the more you will be able to check off all of those things returning to your life or coming to you for the first time around.

And, boy, what a sweet smell of success.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

Literally, this doesn't work. Even if you grew up in a household where you got punished for spilling the proverbial milk, well, just choose not to do it today. As an old friend of mine used to say, "When you find yourself thinking about the wrondoings of your past or the things you could have would have should have, literally, move your head."

Think of it this way. Crying over the past is, in fact, taking important time away from your attempt to make right with the present. Every second you waste thinking about what you should have done before you knew what you needed to know to get some help and get "clean," you are wasting the current time showing gratitude for having a new life to live.

With gratitude follows goodness.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Committment, literally, is NOT a four letter word

One of the major blunders people make in seeking abstinence/sobriety is a fear of the big "C" word, committment. If you or someone you know has tried to get clean time and time again, without success, it is most likely the case that a desire has been present, but a failure to practice new, sometimes frightening behaviors.

Change without action is dead.

That being said, when a person is on his/her last leg of life, wishing he/she could either die or stop using, it is a far cry from when that same person has been clean a few days/weeks/months and decides that the former effort is uneccessary.

The truth is, that no matter how long you have been clean/sober/ the amount of effort you have had to put into that time (even if you are only a few hours in) will be the amount of effort that is required to maintain it. Certainly, the form will change, but, in most cases, the output of energy will not.

I'll use myself as an example. I have stomcah problems. I don't like having stomach problems, but I also don't like to give up the things I need to give up in order to have said stomach problems miraculously dissapear. I've had stomach surgery. Still, I don't want to give these things up. Hmmm..not such a bright idea.

Recently, my stomach pain had been so unbearable that I vowed to give up the following: all dairy, eggs, wheat, any gluten products and all caffeine. Wow! That sounds like a lot, but I was driven by pain to change.

I started feeling really proud of myself, really on top of the world. 5 days no caffeine, 7 days no gluten..then, this weekend, now that I am feeling less bloated, less exhausted and zero stomach pain, I have this bright idea that coffee might be great.

All of the thoughts you might have about using your drug of choice went through my mind. "Well, i probably 'don't' have a stomach problem because I am feeling good now," or "Feeling good is so uneventful, this is kind of boring. I can handle the pain," or, and this is my personal favorite, 'I DESERVE COFEE BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE CAN HAVE IT....LIFE STINKS IT ISN'T FAIR..." is that for some bizarre thinking?

Well, I, didn't indulge in the caffeine, because I know myself well enough to know now that those are self-defeating voices and that caffeine for me is the opposite of my commitment to myself. I had to put out the engery to remind myself why I'd done this, to keep myself from faultering on the very commitment I'd made to myself and to my health.

And, even though I didn't drink the bloody coffee, that other "C" word still scares me if I don't break it down into pieces.

So, how does one pare through this committment word and be okay with it?

How can someone stay sober or abstinent for years?

Well, what seems to work is this:


This may sound counter-intuitive, but here is how it works.

When you decide to get clean and sober, remind yourself you aren't trapped or stuck, you are CHOOSING to change..this gives you power back that you have given over to drugs and alcohol (or your preferred substance).

Then, as each sober day passes by, don't think about it, other than doing the normal things you do to keep yourself happy, clean and sober.

When you mind gets sick of you taking care of yourself, and the addict mind always does, then, pull out the committment word for yourself, choose to launch yourself into another phase of recovery, and remind yourself that if you indulge, you will have to commit all over again.

Ahhh..And, really, who wants to do that?

The worst part of committing is often making the initial decision. The longer you commit, the shorter time you have left to do it. Before you know it, you will be clean/sober longer than you haven't, even if it seems like a lifetime, and then you won't want to start this process all over again.

And, for today, I am still caffeine, gluten, dairy, egg, meat free!!!!

One more tip for today, make a list of all the things you CAN do, besides your drug of choice when you are clean! That will turn your thinking around quicker than might imagine.